In just about every part of the world not the United States -- the only country that dares to use the word "soccer" -- the sport of football makes for extremely important events. It is no surprise that many football stadiums feature impressive architectural design, such as the Bird's Nest National Stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics by Herzog & de Meuron and the World Cup 2010 stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, by Populus (formerly HOK Sport) with local firm Boogertman & Partners. Soon to join that list is the FC Bate Borisov Stadium in Belarus by Ofis arhitekti, a Ljubljana, Slovenia-based firm founded by Rok Oman and Spela Videcnik in 1998.
The FC Bate Borisov Stadium, on which construction is slated to begin at the end of 2010 for completion in time for a special anniversary for the city in 2012, was designed to achieve a four-star rating from the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). The star classification system (category four being being the most elite) grades stadiums on their suitability to host major matches. The stadium will offer much more than just a playing field that will seat 13,000 spectators plus provide areas for the press, VIPs, and special box seats. The stadium design also incorporates an additional 3,000 m2 (approximately 32,292 sq. ft.) of public programming, including a bowling alley, fitness studios, shops, and restaurants. A public "foyer" will provide access to each of these areas, and its reliance on natural ventilation will cut energy costs for the stadium. Only the toilets and bar areas are mechanically heated; the architects treated them as "isolated heat boxes."
The stadium's site within a lush forest provided inspiration for its form. Ofis arhitekti positioned the building carefully to preserve as many trees as possible. Even the parking lots are disguised in pockets around the site so they don't compete with the scenery. The architects chose a rounded dome that is open in the center as the form for the stadium for a variety of reasons: it gives the building a strong presence from the exterior while keeping the focus on the game within, and also the shape performs well acoustically.
Although the stadium is a perfect, oblong donut in plan, its height varies throughout its section, resulting in an undulating roof plane. The structure for the dome is comprised of metal and reinforced concrete with aluminum cladding to shield spectators from the elements. The exterior metal skin functions as a sponge-like wrapper with irregular, glazed penetrations that offer glimpses of the interior. Ribbons of color are visible, which the architects created by alternating colors for each row of seating.
FC Bate Borisov Stadium is not Ofis arhitekti's only stadium project; they have also completed a design for a stadium in Maribor, Slovenia. Although this stadium is similar in size and program to FC Bate Borisov, the site conditions are very different. The Maribor stadium is situated near the dense city center, so the architects opted for a more regular glazing pattern. However, Ofis arhitekti's organic approach to Borisov has resulted in a large building that still remains permeable by its natural surroundings. Witnessing an action-packed football game in the midst of a peaceful forest will only intensify the experience for spectators.
Murrye is a freelance writer based in New York City. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Architecture from the University of Arkansas and is a LEED-accredited professional. Her work has been published in Architectural Record, Eco-Structure, and Architectural Lighting, among others. She also serves as a contributing editor for the American Institute of Architects' New York Chapter publication, eOculus.Website: www.murrye.com